By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
The word “contract” is a cornerstone of travel nursing. Your contract for each assignment dictates everything from time off to pay rate. It functions as a form of protection for you and guarantees your hours and gross income.
The contract is also a safety net for the travel staffing agency. By signing your name to a travel nursing contract you are guaranteeing to work for the set amount of time. In turn, the company is guaranteeing to the hospital they will provide a competent worker to fill their need.
This is one of the key reasons it is important to read each contract thoroughly before signing. Each company’s contract will be slightly different and contains important information like non-compete clauses and their cancellation policy.
Canceling a travel nurse contract is not something that should be taken lightly. You are breaking a legal contract, and there are repercussions. By knowing the consequences you can better weigh the pros and cons if you find yourself in a situation where you feel the need to back out of a travel nurse assignment.
By asking yourself these questions, you can better assess if you should consider canceling and if you are okay with the potential outcome.
Is my license in danger?
Every contract will not be your favorite. Unit cultures, patient population, and hospital location will all play roles in whether or not you truly love your assignment. Not liking certain factors about your job is not a good reason to back out of a contract.
However, if you are being asked to perform inappropriate tasks or take patients beyond your capabilities you may have a better reason to end your assignment early. Look at some of the key aspects of nursing like patient safety and ratios when you are considering canceling. Keep in mind that nothing is worth losing a professional license.
Have I contacted my recruiter?
If unsafe situations arise and you have spoken up at work with no response, contact your recruiter. Most companies will connect you with a clinical liaison who can help reach out directly to the facility and try to mediate the situation. Document all conversations and save this documentation to prove you tried to work out the problems ahead of time.
In the event of an emergent situation—if you get to work and are given an unsafe assignment immediately—call the direct number to your agency and see if there is an on-call recruiter. This person should be reachable even if it is late or on a weekend.
Will my company support my claims?
I have seen this go both ways. In some situations, the travel company will back the nurse on their complaints and assist them in getting out of their contract. By keeping records of unsafe situations they will be better prepared to help you and back you up in this situation. They may suggest cancellation but usually require a two-week notice prior to leaving.
If your company does not agree that you have reasonable concerns to validate leaving early, they may tell you to deal with the problems and continue to work on mediation. At this point, you have to make an assessment of whether or not this will be manageable for the rest of your time in that position.
What are the financial consequences?
In the event that your company does not support you leaving, you could potentially be fined. This is usually because the hospital is penalizing your company for you leaving. This information should be found in your contract but you can also ask your recruiter about potential fines.
Other financial concerns to think about are the cost of breaking a lease or lapse in employment while you look for another assignment. While your license safety is paramount, financial stress is worth considering when you are looking at the best option for you.
Will I be able to get another job?
This one gets a little tricky. If your recruiter supports you leaving, you should be able to work with them for future placement.
However, if your travel company does not support your decision to cancel there will probably be bigger consequences. You will probably not be able to work with that company for future assignments. Also, if your company has “exclusive” contracts with certain facilities you may not be able to get into those particular locations.
Ultimately if you do not make a habit of leaving contracts early, you should be able to find positions in the future whether you have to use a new company or not.
Bottom line: Don’t put yourself or your license in danger.
While all of these points are important to consider, the biggest issue to weigh is whether or not you feel safe in your position. Even if you have to burn bridges with a larger company, protecting yourself should be the biggest concern. Know all of the potential consequences so you can prepare, but don’t be afraid to cancel a contract if it is the right thing for you and your professional license.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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